Articles

Don't Throw Shit Against The Wall To See What Sticks

Yellow-eared spiderhunter (Arachnothera chrysogenys) perched on a twig in the jungle of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Yellow-eared spiderhunter (Arachnothera chrysogenys) perched on a twig in the jungle of Sumatra, Indonesia.

There is a saying many creatives and entrepreneurs use when giving advice to “wannabes”. They tell them to throw shit against a wall and see what sticks. I would say that this is actually good advice. Throwing shit against a wall means you are doing something productive rather than binge watching Netflix, and eventually it is possible that something will stick. But you could get something to stick much faster and feel prouder if you think about it another way.

I would say rather than throwing shit against a wall to see what sticks, hang great art on the wall (it doesn’t matter if it hangs a bit crooked) and one of those pieces may just attract a crowd. The difference in these two sayings is that one means, “just do something and put it out there” and the other says, “do something you are proud of and that you worked hard on and then put it out into the world”. If you do the latter, you are far more likely to attract a crowd quickly. After all, would you want to join a crowd that is looking at shit on a wall?

On my task list every day I have two tasks that appear at the top (I use todoist so this is completely automated everyday). These two tasks are Make and Share. Every day I must make something and I must share something. The “make” does not have to be something new - it could be continuing an article like this one that I have been working on for a while. It just means I have to do some type of creating every day. The “share” also doesn’t have to be anything crazy. It doesn’t mean I have to set up an art show on the street. It could be as simple as sharing a slideshow of my photos from a recent trip with a group of friends, but more often it is entering a photo competition, posting an article on my website, or posting a photo on Instagram.

As you can see, my average “share” methods aren’t making one-million dollars each. They are simply one more way that my work could get noticed. With 365 ways to get noticed each year, eventually one of these “makes” are bound to attract a crowd. Even if it takes fifty years, something will be noticed.

This small set of two tasks per day has gotten me articles in Destination’s Magazine, reposted on National Geographic, and had my photo reviewed by Elia Locardi on an Fstoppers “Critique the Community” video. Each of these has led to a few more followers, a few more emails, and a little bit more interest in my work. Alone, each one is not going to change my life. But together, these and those that are to come easily could.

One of the most important things I have noticed about the pieces of work that have gained a little bit of traction is that each one is something I spent a lot of time on and put a ton of work into. Almost nothing that I quickly wrote and posted or snapped and shared without any thought behind it, just to complete the task for that day, has gained any extra viewership.

When you decide to create something, put everything you’ve got into it. It’s not just about finishing (although, you also should not let yourself get stuck in the pit of perfectionism), it is about making something you can be proud of. Even if you look back on it in a year and think, how could I have thought that was good?!, you can be proud knowing that right now you put your heart and soul into it. People will notice and be drawn to it.

So get off your ass and start creating. Pour yourself into something and have the courage to share it with the world. If you haven’t shared your work before it is difficult at first, but it continues to get easier. Friends and family might make fun of you a bit, but eventually people will start telling you how much they love what you are doing. And that little bit of affirmation will give you the power to do more. Start with a little “make” and then post a small “share” and eventually, whether in days or years or decades, your creative goals will be attained.